Best SQL Server Performance Tools in 2020

Issues and delays caused by database performance networks are a timeand moneydrain IT teams can’t afford. With so many performance risk factors at play (memory usage, indexing, etc.), it can be hard to determine where, when, and why a problem is occurring. Implementing SQL tools focused on performance, monitoring, and management is a critical step in maintaining the health of your system.

With so many SQL server performance tools out there, it can be hard to sift through the noise. My favorite? SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer. This software offers a full suite of services and gets to the core of your performance issues, allowing you to address current pain points while preventing these issues in the future.

SQL Server Pain Points

An efficiently-running SQL server is a critical IT component for many SMBs and enterprises. If your application takes more than a few seconds to respond, it might as well be down completely. I’ve found that in a majority of cases, application performance problems are related to the database, and it takes SQL tools to really drill down and find out what’s going on. The last thing you want is to spend all your hours on diagnosis and tuning. The right SQL monitoring tools should help you check on these common server issues in a much more streamlined way:

  • Insufficient Indexing: There are many ways to index and, while there is no one right way, poor index design will directly impact the speed of queries. Index fragmentation is another pain point. When data is modified in any way, the indexing becomes fragmented, impacting the efficiency of your database, and if you don’t stay on top of this fragmentation, it can quickly lead to slowdowns.
  • Deadlocks: A deadlock is when at least two processes waiting on the same resource wind up each waiting for the other one to be complete before moving forward. This brings both processes to a halt. It’s important to quickly diagnose deadlocks and understand what happened to the failed processes so you can maintain your data integrity and avoid these extended wait times.
  • Memory Usage: Memory usage directly impacts the pace of your server. Poorly written queries and large tables are leeches when it comes to memory space. Adding more memory to speed up SQL server performance is really only a band-aid for the problem and adding extra resources can add expense. Instead, you’ll want to identify which queries and tables are responsible for the slowdown, so you can address the problem at its core. 
  • Security Breaches: Hackers are more cunning than ever and managing the security of SQL servers has become especially challenging. Once a hacker enters your database, time is of the essence. If there’s an anomaly that can signal a security concern, custom scripts with an SQL monitoring tool might be able to help identify and catch it.

Luckily, there are dozens of SQL server tools to help you monitor and protect the health and wellbeing of your database. These SQL server performance tools offer bird’s-eye view dashboards, real-time alerts, and custom reports. The best thing about database performance analyzers? You don’t have to be a database expert to use them. The following list explains some of the top options on the market today:

Database Performance Analyzer

Of all the SQL server performance tools out there, SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) is by far my favorite. The software’s user-friendly interface, 24/7 real-time monitoring, and customizable alert system allow you to quickly identify when performance issues arise. With DPA, you can optimize databases on AWS, Azure, VMware, and more—the agentless architecture makes scaling (and the development process) easier.


But what really makes Database Performance Analyzer stand out is that it doesn’t just show you where bottlenecks are happening. It also correlates activity, wait types, SQL statements, memory usage, and other dimensions to pinpoint their root cause. Their “Response Time Analysis” feature gives you precise, easily comprehensible insights into slowdowns. The software allows you to compare historic data to better identify anomalies and prevent them from reoccurring. The level of full visibility offered here is great for large companies, where database administrators, developers, and engineers must work together to solve problems.

For departments looking to get serious about their SQL performance monitoring, SolarWinds DPA is the way to go.

Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager

Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager

Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager is another popular database monitoring solution on the market. What makes Idera stand out in the crowd is its diversity—it’s designed to monitor databases in both physical and virtual environments. It also reports on a range of metrics, including CPU, memory, network usage, and hard disk usage and space.

In an era where attention spans are fleeting and everyone is always on the run, users appreciate Idera’s intuitive web-based interface and mobile app. One thing to note—not every function is capable on your mobile phone, but some of the big ones are, including running queries, starting and stopping jobs, and killing processes.

Overall, Idera’s software offers a fairly easy way to hit the ground running and get a nice mix of metrics. Just be warned—it might not give you the kind of in-depth look into performance issues that other software can.

SQL Power Tools

SQL Power Tools

SQL Power Tools started gaining traction in 2000 as a “must-have” tool for SQL server database. It’s known for its ability to identify threats through a number of behavioral analysis efforts, a big plus in a world full of cybersecurity scares.

The software is also big on touting its lightweight monitoring abilities, meaning it requires barely any effort from IT professionals to install and maintain, and involves little to no overhead. This tool relies on making use of the existing information within the IT infrastructure. Think of this as the budget airline of the SQL server monitoring tools out there. You’re going to get the bare minimum, but it will get you where you need to go in terms of affordable, solid monitoring results.

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

Paessler is your perfect combo package. Decent SQL monitoring? Check. Strong network monitoring capabilities? Check.

Despite the fact that it’s primarily a network monitoring tool, it has the ability to monitor the most common databases out there—Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Oracle SQL, etc.—and see how they perform under pressure.

Paessler is perfect for those who value the importance of SQL monitoring tools, but don’t have the budget to back up some of the more robust systems. With their scalable pricing structure, they make it easy to find something that works for your organization’s wallet.

Lepide SQL Server Auditing

Lepide SQL Server Auditing

Lepide is a fan favorite for many, and for good reason. Among its suite of services is a SQL monitoring tool that its often recognized for its ability to protect data. One of the ways they do this is through a trend analyzer that can identify when a change occurs within the database and who exactly made that change. With their real-time alerts, you’ll get this update instantly and be able to act if something’s awry.

This software also has an easy-to-read dashboard that puts your databases into a hierarchical format. You know what else is convenient? Their mobile app. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the main dashboard, but it provides a live feed of activity. That’s pretty cool, especially from a security perspective.

Overall, Lepide is a strong choice for those looking to protect against attackers. For those looking to more comprehensively understand system issues, other software may offer more complete packages.

Red-Gate SQL Monitor

Red-Gate SQL Monitor

Red-Gate SQL is another comprehensive offering out there. It provides a deep level of insight and live tracking, so you’re always aware of what’s going on. Red-Gate SQL is also known for their proactive development cycle—they’re constantly adding new updates and patches to ensure a highly functioning product.

Many users love that the software comes with 40 pre-configured, customizable alerts. This helps you get up and running quickly. What users don’t love so much is the interface. Despite its bold visuals, many find the dashboard tricky to understand.

Sentry One (SQL Sentry)

Sentry One (SQL Sentry)

Sentry One doesn’t over-complicate performance monitoring. Their real-time dashboard features all of the critical SQL components you should be monitoring, plus the ability to view historical data. Another big bonus? This tool offers index defragmentation, deadlock analysis, and block chain analysis.

Some call Sentry One’s monitoring methods “old-school” and, in many ways, they are. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. If you’re looking for a software that’s a little less sparkly than all the others, but still gets the job done, Sentry One could be for you.

ManageEngine SQL Server Management

ManageEngine SQL Server Management

This is part of the overall ManageEngine Applications Manager solution, which is an integrated, comprehensive software for tracking performance across servers, applications, databases, and more. Larger businesses may find this range useful. The SQL Server Management system helps monitor and manage SQL database performance with graphs, charts, and is generally intuitive to use. It offers some performance parameters to start, although you’ll want to set your own threshold limits for alerts. While this is a solid tool, some find the platform tricky to customize.

The Top Choice for SQL Management

There are many SQL management tools to choose from, but if you’re just looking for a reliable, cost-effective option at the SMB or enterprise level, I suggest starting with SolarWinds DPA. See if it offers what you need and experience the benefits of good SQL server performance management. Remember, slow systems and hours wasted on issue detection don’t have to be the norm. The right SQL tools will allow you to quickly and easily address database performance issues.

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